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1

Laboratory of Electronics, Section of Electronics and Information Systems Technology,

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,

Democritus University of Thrace, GR-671 00 Xanthi, Greece

E-mail: {bbonik, iandread}@ee.duth.gr

2

Laboratory of Robotics and Automation, Section of Production Systems,

Department of Production and Management Engineering

Democritus University of Thrace, GR-671 00 Xanthi, Greece

E-mail: agaster@pme.duth.gr

of the original image, by computing their differences in a

This paper presents a new center-surround network for the logarithmic space. These ratios are used for the extraction

dynamic range compression of grayscale images. The of a lightness map which is independent from the scene

proposed method exploits some of the shunting illumination and depends only on the reflectances of

characteristics of biological center-surround networks, in objects in the scene. The algorithm is applied

order to reduce the effects of uneven illumination and independently to each chromatic channel and in three

improve the dynamic range of images. The main advantage different spatial scales. The final output is the weighted

of the proposed method is its low computational burden, sum of the three scales. The main advantage of Retinex is

which allows the rendition of high-resolution 5-MPixel the good dynamic range compression that achieves for a

images in approximately 1.3 seconds, when executed by a variety of different lighting conditions and the color

conventional personal computer. The method is compared constancy attributes that exhibits. It has been successfully

to the latest commercial version of the Retinex algorithm, used in many applications, such as shadow removal [6],

and exhibits promising results for a wide variety of real color correction [7] and gamut mapping [8]. The main

images and lighting conditions. weakness of Retinex is its computational burden, which

derives from the convolution of the image with Gaussian

filters of radiuses up to 240 pixels. Additionally, halo

1. INTRODUCTION effects tend to appear in regions where strong intensity

transitions exist, degrading the final output of the algorithm.

The dynamic range of natural scenes, that is, the ratio Other approaches to the dynamic range compression

between the maximum and minimum tonal values found in problem include the modeling of brightness perception [9],

the scene, can reach up to great proportions [1]. the manipulation of gradient in the luminance component

Conventional 8-bit cameras have a dynamic range of just [10] and the combination of images captured with different

256:1, while 14-bit high-end cameras can reach up to exposures [11, 12]. A detailed overview of dynamic range

16,384:1. This introduces an important problem to artificial compression techniques can be found in [13].

vision systems, especially when the dynamic range of the

scene exceeds the dynamic range of the camera. In these The proposed method is partially inspired by the HVS. It

cases, certain parts of the image can become either particularly adopts some of the shunting characteristics of

underexposured or overexposured, reducing the compound the on-center off-surround networks, in order to define the

visual information. Contrary to cameras, the human visual response function for a new artificial center-surround

system (HVS) can accommodate a dynamic range of network. This network compares every pixel to its local

approximately 10,000:1 [1]. This usually results into average and assigns a new value in order to light the dark

significant differences between the image perceived by the image regions, while minimally affecting the light ones.

HVS and the one captured by the camera. Histogram stretching is applied before the center-surround

network, ensuring that the final output occupies the full

Many algorithms have been presented in the past decade dynamic range of the medium. The proposed algorithm

that attempt to solve this problem. The most important of allows the rendition of high resolution 5-MPixel images in

all is the Retinex family of algorithms. Retinex was first approximately 1 second, even when executed by a

presented by Edwin Land in 1972 [2] and was inspired by conventional personal computer. Additionally, no multiple

some attributes of the HVS, which also defined its name scales are needed and no halo effects are introduced in the

(Retina & Cortex). The initial algorithm inspired many strong transitions between light and dark regions. The

others, the latest of which can be found in [3], while an algorithm exhibits good results for a wide variety of

extensive analysis of the algorithm can be found in [4,5]. images and lighting conditions without requiring additional

The main idea of Retinex is the calculation of ratios manual tuning. The evaluation of the proposed method is

carried out by comparing its outputs with the commercial dark image regions, the non-linearity ‘a*’ acts as a local

software PhotoFlair, which utilizes the Multi-Scale Retinex nonlinear correction: it gives a high output even when the

(MSR) algorithm, as presented in [3]. The results of the center has low values. This practically means that in dark

comparison show that the proposed method exhibits image regions, where illumination is not adequate, the cell

comparable and many times superior results to the Retinex increases its response to the contrast between center and

algorithm, in significantly lower execution times. surround, compensating for the low illumination. On the

contrary, for high surround values, which means that the

The rest of the paper is organized as follows: Section 2 cell is located in a light image region, the non-linearity ‘a*’

presents some of the attributes of the ganglion cells of the gradually vanishes to the almost-linearity ‘a’. As a result,

HVS upon which the proposed method is based and a the output of the cell is linearly associated with the contrast

detailed description of the algorithm. Section 3 between the center and the surround.

demonstrates the experimental results. Finally, concluding

remarks are made in section 4. Equation (1) possesses several characteristics, which make

it inappropriate for direct use in dynamic range

compression. First, it produces a bipolar output, since it is

2. DESCRIPTION OF THE METHOD essentially an edge detector. For this reason, it is usually

followed by half-way rectification and a filling-in

It is long known that a shunting on-center off-surround procedure [16] which is time consuming. Second, the

network of cells can reduce the effects of illumination output range is reduced to half ‘b’, as the surround values

(discount the illuminant) and extract the scene reflectances progress from low to high. In order to overcome these

by adapting to a wide range of inputs [14, 15]. These drawbacks, equation (2) is used as a basis, which describes

attributes are the result of a biological adaptation the total activity of a shunting center-surround network

mechanism known as ‘shunting inhibition’. The steady [14]. It is then modified in order to eliminate the unwanted

state solution of the shunting differential equation, that output reduction ‘b’. The resulted function is equation (3).

shows the output of an on-center off-surround cell, when t The graphical representations of both equations (2) and (3)

→ ∞, is shown in equation 1. are depicted in Fig. 2.

C-S B⋅ x

out ( C,S) = (1) F(x) = (2)

g leak + C + S A+x

(B + A )⋅ x (3)

surround and gleak is the decay constant. When used in A+x

image processing applications, gleak usually is the

maximum value that a pixel may take, which in our case is

255. The 3-dimensional representation of equation (1) for

an on-center off-surround cell with 0 ≤ C ≤ 255 and 0 ≤ S ≤

255 is depicted in Fig. 1.

Figure 2: Graphical representation of equations (2) and (3).

The reason for which a center-surround cell with equation

(1) as an activation function can discount the illuminant is In equations (2) and (3), B is the maximum value the

evident in Fig. 1. In fact, equation (1) performs a function can take and A is a constant that determines the

comparison of the contrast between the center and the degree of non-linearity. Equation (3) transitions from a

surround and adequately adjusts the output. For low sharp non-linearity (A=1) to a linearity (A≥1000), while

surround values, which means that the cell is located in maintaining the same output range 0 ≤ G(x) ≤ B for all the

possible values of A. If x is substituted by the center C of a

py px

center-surround cell and the surround S is correlated with (8)

the non-linearity factor A, a new, improved response ∑∑ u (85-p )

i=1 j=1

i,j

px×py

cell must be equal to the maximum value of a pixel, B=255.

190

The following equations describe the activation function of m= (100 − r ) + 10 (9)

the center-surround cell of the proposed method. 100

C i,j,t + 1 (C ,S ) =

( 255 + A (S ) ) ⋅ C i,j i,j,t (4) Where u(x) is the unit step function (is 1 if x≥0 and 0 if

A ( S i,j ) + C i,j,t x<0), px, py are the dimensions of image and pi,j the pixel

value at position (i, j). The main idea is to calculate the

A(S i,j ) = S i,j + m + q ( S i,j ) (5) percentage of pixels in the image that have values below

85. This is a rough estimation of the darkness in the image

255 ⋅ Si,j and therefore it is used to adjust the minimum value ‘m’

q(Si,j ) = (6)

255-Si,j that the non-linear factor A can obtain. Equation (9)

linearly regulates the value of ‘m’, between 10, when

1 i+1 j+1 100% of the image pixels are below 85 and 200, when 0%

Si,j = ∑ ∑ py,x

9 y=i-1 x= j-1 (7) of the image pixels are below 85. Constant 85 was selected

as it is the 1/3 of 255 and can be thought of as the first bin

Where, (i, j) denote the coordinates of a pixel in the image of a 3-bin histogram that divides the 255 intensities into 3

and p is its value. In the proposed method, the surround Si,j sets: dark, medium and light.

is the average of a 3×3 pixel region while the center Ci,j is

the central pixel of this region. Equation (5) describes the In order to achieve better results, a histogram clipping and

non-linearity factor A, as a function of the surround. The stretching technique is required, prior to processing with

minimum value obtained by A(S), when S=0, is denoted by the center-surround network. The technique is the one that

‘m’. This non-linearity affects the overall result of the has been extensively discussed in [4] and for this reason it

algorithm and its value is determined by the statistics of the is not described here.

image. Equation (6) describes the transition between the

non-linearity ‘a*’ and the linearity ‘a’, as the surround

values increase. Fig. 3 shows the 3-dimensional 3. EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS

representation of equation (4).

The proposed method is compared to the MSR algorithm,

extensively described in [3]. The MSR algorithm is

generally used for color constancy applications. However,

in the present study only its dynamic range compression

characteristics are compared, by applying it only on

grayscale images. The implementation of the MSR

algorithm that was used for the tests was the commercial

software PhotoFlair that features the MSR algorithm. The

parameters of the MSR were the default that the authors

have mentioned (3 scales with radiuses 5, 20 and 240

pixels and equal weights for every scale). The proposed

method was implemented in C code. Both algorithms were

executed on an Intel Pentium 4 processor, running at 3GHz,

with 512 MB RAM and Windows XP.

Figure 3: The 3-dimensional representation of equation (4).

3.1 Results with Real Images

The new activation function maintains the transition from

the non-linearity ‘a*’ to the linearity ‘a’ correlated with the This subsection presents the results of the comparison

value of the surround. This means that when the surround between the MSR and the proposed algorithm, in a set of

has low values, something occurring in dark image regions, real high-resolution grayscale images. Most of the images

the non-linearity ‘a*’ increases the value of the center in represent scenes that were captured with different digital

order to increase the local contrast. On the contrary, when cameras under different lighting conditions where dynamic

the surround comprises high values, something that range correction is required. Table 1 exhibits some of the

happens in light image regions, the linearity ‘a’ does not results that were obtained by the proposed method and

alter the value of the center. For all the intermediate MSR. For every image, its size and the execution times of

surround values, equation (6) determines the degree of the two methods are included. It is important to mention

non-linearity. that the PhotoFlair software that was used to obtain the

MSR outputs has 3 different versions of the Retinex

The calculation of ‘m’ in equation (5) is as follows: algorithm: Scenic Retinex, Portrait Retinex and Portrait

Retinex followed by ‘auto levels’, which is a form of

histogram equalization. The Retinex results that are shown

in Table 1 are always the best of the 3 versions, as selected 3.2 Quantitative Comparison

by the typical human observer.

The following experiment was carried out in order to

It is evident from the results that the proposed method can achieve a numerical comparison between the two

correct most of the problems caused by the limited algorithms. Different levels of a computer generated

dynamic range of the camera. Additionally, all images shadow were embedded in a real image that had otherwise

demonstrate the main advantage of the proposed method no need for dynamic range correction. The shadow level

over MSR; the lack of halo effects. Most of the regions that was determined by the factor ‘sh’, ranging between

MSR fails to restore are the result of significant halo 50%-95%. Half of the image pixels were multiplied by

effects which are caused in the boundaries of a dark region 1-(sh/100), thus producing a shadow in half of the image.

with a light one. The execution times of the proposed Fig. 4 shows some of the computer generated shadows, as

method are approximately 23 times lower than the ones well as the outputs for these particular images.

required for the MSR, allowing the rendition of 5-MPixel

images in 1.3 sec. It should not be neglected though, that

MSR preserves better the light regions of the image, while

the proposed method tends to light them more than

necessary.

Proposed

Retinex

1. 1920×2560 30 sec 1.3 sec

computer generated shadows, as well as results for these

examples.

2. 2560×1920 29 sec 1.3 sec

6. 2560×1920 31.7 sec 1.4 sec Figure 5: Results from the comparison for different shadow

Table 1: Comparison of results of the proposed method levels.

with MSR in real images.

The results of the two algorithms were compared to the 5. REFERENCES

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